Edward Bland

In 1650, Edward Bland and others explored "New Brittaine." A pamphlet published in London the following year told of the voyage to the Chowan, Meherrin, and Roanoke river area in what is now North Carolina.

Edward Bland, merchant in James River, Captain Abraham Wood and others, were permitted by the Virginia governor, Lord William Berkeley, to go exploring south. They went south-south-west several days journey and then they thought it well to return.

They reached a country in their opinion "far more temperate than ours of Virginia, and the inhabitants full of children."

This was likely the country of the Island of Occoneechee where the Roanoke branches into the Sapony and the Saura, that is to say the Staunton and the Dan.

On the way out a Nottaway king said to them: "There was a Wainoke Indian told him that there was an Englishman, a 'Cockarous,' hard by Captain Flood's gave this Indian bells and other petty truck to lay down to the Tuskarood King, and would have had him to go with him, but the Wainoke in doubt what to do when to Captain Flood who advised him not to go for that the governor would give no license to go thither."

Our recorded history in this field is plainly fragment. The Englishman of the narrative, a 'cockarous,' or important man, went to the Tuscarora without the Wainoke and without pestering the governor.

Bland's party heard of him again: a Tuscarora Indian they met at a Meherrin town gave them word that the adventuring 'cockarous' was then a great way off at the further Tuscarora town.

Mr. Edward Bland sent him a letter, couched in English, Latin, Spanish, French and Dutch. Nothing came of the polyglottal note. Some time afterwards they found out that the runner they employed never took the letter.

Several things that happened they were convinced had been done "of purpose to get something out of us and we had information that at that time there were other English among the Indians." Whomever was out there before them did not have the permission nor the knowledge of the governor. Apparently, the man who fancied the risk took it.

Similarly, Hakluyt's story of Davy Ingram roving in 1578 from Mexico to Massachusetts Bay is not unbelievable.

On August 27, 1650, a Virginia exploring party set out from Fort Henry to reach the Tuscarora settlements. The company included Edward Bland, Abraham Wood, Sackford Brewster, Elias Pennant, two white servants, and an Appromattox Indian guide. On the way they secured a Nottoway Indian guide named Oyeocker. Some distance west of Meherrin River they came to an Indian trail. Their narrative states:

"At this path our Appamattuck Guide made a stop, and cleared the Westerly end of the path with his foote, being demanded the meaning of it, he shewed an unwillingness to relate it, sighing very much. Whereupon we made a stop untill Oyeocker our Other Guide came up, and then our Appamattuck journied on; but Oyeocker at his coming up cleared the other end of the path, and prepared himselfe in a most serious manner to require our attentions, and told us that many years since their late great Emperour Appachancano came thither to make War upon the Tuscarood, in revenge of three of his men killed, and one wounded, and brought word of the other three men murdered by the Hocomawananck Indians for lucre of the Roanoke they brought with them to trade for Otter skins.

"There accompanied Appachancano severall petty Kings that were under him, amongst which there was one King of a Towne called Powhatan, which had long time harboured a grudge against the King of Chawan, about a young woman that the King of Chawan had detayned of the King of Powhatan: Now it happened that the King of Chawan was invited by the King of Powhatan to this place under pretence to present him with a guift of some great vallew, and they met accordingly, and the King of Powhatan went to salute and embrace the King of Chawan, and stroaking of him after their usual manner, he whipt a bowstring about the King of Chawan's neck, strangled him; and how that in memoriall of this, the path is continued unto this day, and the friends of the Powhatans when they passe that way, cleanse the Westerly end of the path, and the friends of the Chawan the other.

"And some two miles from the path we come unto an Indian Grave upon the east side of the path: Upon which Grave there lay a great heape of sticks covered with greene boughs, we demanded the reason for it, Oyeocker told us, that there lay a great man of Chawan that dyed in the same quarrell, and in honor of his memory they continue greene boughs over his Grave to this day, and ever when they goe forth to Warre they relate this, and other valorous, loyall Acts, to their young men, to animate them to doe the like whan occasion requires."

On the North American mainland, settlement followed exploration and colonization. For half a century there was little record of travelling beyond the limits of the outlying pasture lands and adjoining home sites. Occasionally someone bolder than his neighbours pushed a canoe up-stream to the head of navigation, or wandered into the valleys beyond the surrounding ridges, but very rarely were observations or physical experiences committed to paper.

The impulse to print the reports of travellers did not come until there was land to be sold. The seventeenth-century promoters of speculation carried on the practice of distributing tracts telling about the property they wished others to buy. The little pamphlets issued by the Virginia Company, by the Massachusetts Agents, by William Penn in German, Dutch, and French as well as in English, by the Scots Proprietors of the Jerseys, and by the Lords of Carolina, are today worth more money than many of the acres that they describe.

Most of these early tracts were written by men who had travelled through the regions of which they wrote. Rarely is there any substantial reason for doubting the honesty of what was reported as the result of actual observation.

"What I write, is what I have proved," remarks one of the frankest of these promoters of a New World settlement in which he hoped to make his fortune, Edward Bland, Merchant.

On August 27, 1650, Bland set forth from the head of "Appamattuck River" in Virginia in search of the Falls of Blandina. His journey took him across broad stretches of "very rich Champian Land," "a pleasant Country, of temperate Ayre, and fertile Soyle."

The beauty of the country, the heaps of bones which led the native guides to relate tales of valorous deeds, and the preservation of the party through "information our Guide told us he had from a woman that was his Sweet-heart," offered opportunities that a later-day reader wishes might have been improved with some of the appreciation of literary possibilities which a Frenchman could hardly have neglected.

Bland's narrative goes steadily forward toward the goal and home again, without digression for any merely entertaining purpose from each day's march and the nightly watch against surprise.


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